Safety – Good for the Swedes, NOT for the Saints

By: Jim Mustain 

Swedish car manufacturer Volvo has built its reputation on safety. Want a safe car, drive a Volvo. Car enthusiasts typecast Volvo’s conservative and uninspiring cars by saying, “Volvo sells school teachers cars shaped like bricks”. Ouch!

Playing it safe has resulted in Volvo being far from the “top ten list” when it comes to car sales in the US. Truth is they own less than 1% of the car sales market.

Is merely “playing it safe” an overall good strategy for doing life?

Empirically speaking it doesn’t seem to be a stellar marketing genius for the Swedes. But changing gears and more to my point, what about for the “saints”? Is a risk averse posture, “playing it safe”, what God is calling us to be and do? I think NOT!

Some of us equate playing it safe with being sensible and prudent. But here’s my two cents. Most of the time, it’s something else all together. The real problem isn’t safety or risk at all. The real problem is fear.

What if I were to tell you that there was a little tiny part of your brain that pre-wires you to avoid risk and play it safe? Well, there actually is. It’s called the amygdala and it plays a big part in what motivates us to behave the way we do.

One of the functions of the amygdala is processing emotions – particularly those associated with survival. Like the emotion of fear for instance. When you are in a familiar situation that you know to be safe, your amygdala is happy and secure – and so are you. But when something new or seemingly risky comes along, the amygdala kicks into high gear. It lets you know, “Hey, we’re outside our comfort zone here. Retreat! Withdrawal!” Sometimes that reaction can save your life. Other times it can hold you back from a more fulfilling life.

The Scriptures teach that Jesus came to give us a full life, not a safe life. (John 10:10). We see where risk and investment are rewarded, not safety. (Matt. 25:14) Our invitation is not to the familiar or comfortable, but to the unfamiliar and outcast (Luke 14:12)

A quote I ran across from my recent readings has fueled my God imaginations and encouraged my inner risk taker. It is attributed to John A. Shedd in his book Salt From My Attic and says,

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

What are we built for? Safety? Or risking it all for the better good…for the Kingdom…for the King?

See you out at sea!